The Philippine government has formally rejected at least 380 million pesos (€6.1 million) in aid from the European Union amid allegations that it carries conditions on human rights.
Ambassador Franz Jessen, head of the visiting delegation to the Philippines, said EU-Philippine Trade Related Technical Assistance (TRTA) package had been returned unsigned.
The Philippines has previously said it would reject all forms of aid that came with conditions on human rights or other factors.
Jessen also said Manila was about to reject an additional €39 million in aid for sustainable energy projects.
President Rodrigo Duterte has condemned the EU for raising concerns over the death toll in his “war on drugs”, in which excess of 6,000 people have died.
Jessen said the objections were raised to the phrases “rule of law”, “democracy” and “human rights” in the TRTA documentation.
He said the conditions applied to all potential EU partners and were “not specifically for the Philippines”.
“For me it’s a bit sad that after 30 years plus of development cooperation, we suddenly get into this situation. And the independence of Philippine foreign policy – I’m still struggling a bit to understand how we are interfering in that,” Jessen said.
Manila’s foreign minister Alan Peter Cayetano said the Philippines was not rejecting all forms of European grants and only donations that came with “conditionalities that will affect our sovereignty” would be snubbed. Cayetano said that this was “not an EU-specific policy.”
The fact that the Philippines’ had not reimposed the death penalty and lowered the age of criminal liability helped it retain its EU trade privileges, Jessen added.
“I thought it was a good help also for GSP+ [generalised scheme of preferences plus] that the government and the political system decided not to push for capital punishment. I thought that was very helpful,” Jessen told the media.
“I thought also that the discussion on reducing the criminal age started to be less important than it was at some point in 2017 was also a good step, showing that some of the dialogues that are going on within the country and also with foreign partners like the EU are helpful,” he added.
The European Commission, the EU’s executive, announced that Philippine exports worth an estimated US$2.35 billion, about 66 per cent of annual exports to its second-largest trading partner, would face no duties.
The Philippines is one of nine countries that qualify for the EU’s GSP+ scheme, which removes tariffs on two-thirds of products as long as the countries commit to international agreements on human, labour and environmental protection and good governance.
A Manila protester imitates a killing during the recent “war on drugs”. Picture credit: Wikimedia